PARIS (AP) — With Britain’s departure from the European Union looming, Prince William and his wife, Kate, kicked off a two-day visit to Paris Friday by meeting French president Francois Hollande. The trip is William’s first official visit to the city since his mother died there.
Hollande greeted the couple Friday afternoon in the courtyard of the Elysee Palace.
They discussed the French-British relationship in the context of Britain’s forthcoming departure from the European Union. They also talked about the military operation against the Islamic State group in Syria, in which the two countries are allied, the French presidency said.
On Saturday, the couple was scheduled to meet with victims and first responders from the deadly 2015 attacks on the Bataclan concert hall and other Paris sites. They also plan to attend a France-Wales rugby match.
While the royal couple has visited France several times, it was William’s first official visit to Paris since his mother, Princess Diana, was killed in a 1997 car accident.
The visit comes amid anxiety across Europe over Britain’s departure from the European Union. By the end of the month, British Prime Minister Theresa May plans to trigger the two-year process that would take Britain out of the EU.
In a speech Friday at the British Embassy, Prince William said the “deep friendship between the United Kingdom and France, forged in sweat and blood, is one that will endure.”
“This partnership will continue despite Britain’s recent decision to leave the European Union,” he said. “The depth of our friendship and the breadth of our cooperation will not change.”
Before Kate and William headed to France on Friday, the royal couple met the families of soldiers at a St. Patrick’s Day Parade at the Cavalry Barracks in Hounslow, London, and presented shamrocks to the 1st Battalion Irish Guards.
The visit doesn’t include any official memorial events for Diana. Near the tunnel under the Alma bridge, where the car accident took place, tourists paid tribute to her, leaving flowers and photos.
Nicolas Herrera, 20, a Colombian studying in Paris, thinks Diana continues to be an object of affection for people around the world because she was “different.”
“She was part of the royal family, part of people from the important world, but she was near the real people,” Herrera said. “She was more close to poor people.”
Nina Abboud, an American tourist from Missouri, said people still mention Diana as an example of leadership and generosity.
“So I think she definitely influenced and it was positive and has been for all these 20 years,” Abboud said. “You’ve never heard more about her.”